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Sometimes one wonders why things are where they are.

Nothing against Weikersheim, which bills itself as "klein aber fein" — small but fine. It is. But why is there a grand Renaissance palace on the edge of a small German town?

The river might have something to do with it. A 12th-century castle once stood on the site of the town, guarding the banks of the Tauber. But when a count of Hohenlohe decided to make this place his home, an old castle with a moat would not do. So late in the 16th century, Wolfgang II had much of it torn down and the palace built.

The most unusual thing about the palace was its layout. The ground plans called for a triangle, but 16th-century engineering didn’t quite get the job done. Still, Wolfgang and his heirs, especially Siegfried and Carl Ludwig, built a pretty imposing little palace overlooking an even more imposing baroque palace garden.

You can see the palace interior only on a guided tour, but even then, not all rooms are open to the public. Those that are open are opulently decorated and furnished. The original furniture can’t be seen, as the palace was sacked during the Thirty Years’ War. At the beginning of the 18th century, Carl Ludwig had the rooms redecorated with much stucco, in baroque style.

In one wing, on two floors are the apartments of the counts and Elizabeth Frederike Sophie, Ludwig’s wife. The apartments are made up of an antechamber, audience room and bedroom. Elizabeth’s bedroom is not open to the public, but has an extra treat, the Mirror Room. In a small room behind glass doors is her collection of porcelain figurines, each on its own niche carved in the wall.

The other wing houses the highlight of the palace. Even a pair of bored French kids could not help letting out a pair of astonished gasps as they got their first glance at the Rittersaal, the two-story-high knights hall.

A giant chandelier hangs from the ceiling, which is decorated with paintings with a hunting theme. At the far end of the hall is a giant fireplace; to each side of it are the family trees of Count Wolfgang and his wife, Magdalena. Life-size animal sculptures line the side walls.

Behind the knights hall is the two-story chapel — the top floor for the royals, the lower for the palace staff.

The palace’s baroque garden is known for its statues. They represent the four elements, the four winds, the four seasons, mythological figures, the planets and Roman gods — except a row of dwarfs overlooking the gardens that represent the palace staff.

At the garden’s center is a fountain with a statue of Hercules fighting the Hydra, at its far end is the Orangerie, which once housed the garden’s citrus trees, but now can be rented for social events.

The center of the town of Weikersheim is the market square with its rococo fountain topped by a trumpet-blowing angel. On the square is the baroque town hall, an old granary that now houses the town museum, the city church of St. Georg and some restaurants.

From here cobblestone lanes spread out, passing by old half-timbered houses. A walk through town leads to the public gardens and the Gänsturm, once a city gate tower in the town’s fortifications.

A visit to the palace, gardens and town makes for a klein aber fein day out.

On the QTTimes

The palace is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to October and from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. November to March. Guided tours begin on the hour.

Costs

Admission for the palace tour and gardens costs 5.50 euros for adults and 2.80 euros for children, with a family ticket going for 13.80 euros. The gardens only cost 2.50 euros for adults and 1.30 euros for children from April to October and 1.50 euros for adults and 80 euro cents from November to March. Parking is free.

Food

There are a number of restaurants on or near the market square.

Information

The palace Web site is www.schloss-weikersheim.de ; the town’s site is www.weikersheim.de . Both have English versions.


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